Adam McQuaid

Fitzgerald family

Bruins’ ‘Fist Bump Kid’ continues raising awareness, money for charity

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Nearly five years after some fist bumps turned him into a viral sensation, and six years after beating leukemia, Liam Fitzgerald and his family have continued to use that moment to help raise money and awareness for good causes.

It was in Nov. 2014 when Liam was spotted on the TD Garden Jumbotron and was then invited to be on the Boston Bruins’ bench for warmups. As each player skated off the ice, eight-year-old Liam handed out fist bumps on their way to the dressing room. The video went viral and Fitzgerald was soon everywhere. 

The Boston sports teams embraced Liam and welcomed him to their stadiums for once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like giving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady a fist bump. There was an ESPN E:60 profile and he was even given his own hockey card from Upper Deck.

These days Liam is a 13-year-old teenager who stays busy with football, basketball and swimming, but hockey remains No. 1 in his heart. He says he wants to be a broadcaster when he gets older, or work in sports in some capacity, and that his favorite play-by-play announcer is NBC’s own ‘Doc’ Emrick.

Patrice Bergeron is Liam’s favorite Bruin and the Fitzgeralds were there in February for his 1,000th NHL game celebration. That favorite player title was previously held by Adam McQuaid. For Halloween in 2013, Liam dressed as the defenseman, and the two met a few months later after a game before he became a viral sensation.

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Liam is still every bit the celebrity these days whenever he’s at a Bruins game, or even out to dinner with his family.

“He’s pretty much still recognizable in the hockey world, even walking through the North End where it’s a real hockey community,” said Liam’s mom, Christine. “We’ve been in there for dinner and people have stopped him.”

The beneficiaries of Liam’s viral fame were a number of charities and causes. In 2015 he was named the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Man of the Year” after raising over $152,000 in just 10 weeks. The Fitzgeralds have also raised money for UMass Memorial Medical Center, where Liam was treated after being diagnosed with leukemia at age 3. Then there’s Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress and Cradles to Crayons, which saw Liam give up receiving gifts for his birthday and run a drive that collected 642 pairs of pajamas and $1,065 for children in need.

“It feels good,” said Liam about helping other kids. “I like donating some stuff to other children when they need it.”

The family has certainly been keeping busy.

“Busy in a good way,” said Christine. “I can’t say enough about giving back. That’s one thing if you look at the Bruins and the hockey community they’re both great on and off the ice. They do so much in the community and so much for so many it makes you want to be a better person and do the same thing.”

While life can be hectic, these experiences have allowed the Fitzgeralds to help plenty of people in need and allow sports to assist Liam as he battled through adversity at such a young age,.

“[T]he good thing about it is it’s taken some things in our lives that have been challenging and given us and the Bruins and others a platform to increase awareness for Down syndrome and learning disabilities, as well childhood cancer, which is huge,” said Christine. “Also, I think it’s incredibly important to think about the role sports plays in the lives of people and that [Liam’s] story teaches a lot of that — that he may not ever be able to be a hockey player because he can’t really skate well, but boy, can he participate in sports and boy, has hockey had a huge impact on him growing up. 

“The hockey community, there’s just nothing like it.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Andrew Shaw won’t be suspended for hit on McQuaid

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Montreal Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw will not be suspended for his hit on Adam McQuaid on Thursday night.

During the second period of last night’s game between the Habs and Blue Jackets, Shaw was trying to get back on-side during one of his team’s power plays when he collided with McQuaid near the Columbus blue line.

McQuaid stayed down on his back for a few seconds before he managed to skate off on his own. He did not return to the game.

After the game, Jackets head coach John Tortorella mentioned that he thought the hit was “ridiculously suspendable”. But the league didn’t see it that, according to Sportsnet’s Eric Engels. So Shaw won’t face any supplemental discipline for the hit.

It’s hard to determine whether or not Shaw’s hit was intentional because he was trying to get on the other side of the blue line. On the other hand, he had his head up the whole time, so it’s difficult to imagine that he never saw his opponent in his path.

Shaw’s been a huge part of the Canadiens’ recent success, so the fact that they’ll have him for their last four games of the season is good news for their slim playoff hopes. The 27-year-old has 18 goals and a career-high 43 points in only 59 games this season.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

McQuaid already out of Blue Jackets’ lineup just one week after trade

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The Columbus Blue Jackets pushed all their chips to the center of the table at the NHL trade deadline and went all in on this season by acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Keith Kinkaid, and Adam McQuaid over a three-day stretch, exhausting almost their entire allotment of draft picks for 2019.

It was such a bold approach because the team was not even a lock to make the playoffs at the time of the trades and enters the week on the outside of the playoff picture after dropping back-to-back games to the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets over the weekend. It also puts a ton of pressure on the team to win this season because Duchene, Dzingel, Kinkaid, McQuaid, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky are all unrestricted free agents after this season.

There is a real chance many — if not all — of them could be gone after July 1. Given what they gave up at the deadline, the headlines they made, and the uncertainty about the roster after this season missing the playoffs would be … well … bad.

So far, the early returns have not produced the results the Blue Jackets were looking for as they have dropped three of their first four games since the deadline.

It also looks like one of those acquisitions is going to struggle to get a regular spot in the lineup.

McQuaid was a healthy scratch in Sunday’s loss to the Jets, having been replaced by Dean Kukan, and based on coach John Tortorella’s press conference on Monday it appears the same lineup will be used on Tuesday night when the team takes on the New Jersey Devils.

That means, again, no Adam McQuaid, just one week after the team traded a prospect and two draft picks for him.

“I have to make decisions on who I think is our best six, and right now [McQuaid] isn’t that,” Tortorella said on Monday. “I don’t know what he is; I know the character of this guy, that is a big reason why we got him, he is a high character guy. Little concerned about the speed of the game with him, so we went back to the other guys. [Kukan] had some good games prior to being taken out, in fact it was probably unfair that comes out, but because we make a deal I wanted to look at [McQuaid], and I feel [Kukan] should be in right now, so we will go with those six.”

In his first three games with the team McQuaid was a minus-four in just around 40 minutes of total ice time.

Of all the players Columbus acquired prior to the deadline McQuaid was always the one that seemed to be the most unnecessary. Obviously Tortorella loves the person and presence he can provide off the ice, but his style of play just doesn’t seem to fit with the way the Blue Jackets play on the back end or with the direction the NHL is moving. But, players get injured and if you are a team that has any hope of going on an extended playoff run you are probably going to have to use at least eight or nine different defenders. Plus, the Blue Jackets probably no doubt see McQuaid as some kind of an answer to Tom Wilson should they encounter the Washington Capitals again at some point. So here we are.

As for the Blue Jackets’ other main additions, Duchene has one goal and two assists in his first six games, while Dzingel has a pair of assists in four games.

PHT Power Rankings: The NHL’s best under-the-radar performances

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Hayes, Zuccarello part of Rangers’ ‘retool’ or saying goodbye to Broadway?

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There’s a 10-point hill to climb for the New York Rangers to try and get back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. But even a run over the next month won’t mean much if the teams ahead of them continue picking up points.

On that note, it’ll be an interesting few weeks for general manager Jeff Gorton, who a year ago raised the white flag on the 2018-19 NHL season and signaled that the team was heading in a new direction. Changes came and will continue to come, especially with three key players set to become unrestricted free agents this summer.

Forwards Kevin Hayes (10-23–33,  40GP) and Mats Zuccarello (8-16–24, 35GP), along with defenseman Adam McQuaid find themselves dubbed as trade bait with the Feb. 25 3 p.m. ET deadline approaching. Hayes, whose name has been linked with the Colorado Avalanche for some time, is back in the lineup after missing nine games with an upper-body injury. Zuccarello missed time last month with a groin injury and has been dealing with an infected foot but should be back Thursday versus New Jersey. McQuaid was acquired in September from the Boston Bruins, but it seemed clear at the time he would eventually be flipped for future assets.

The Rangers want to continue to get younger and faster in preparation for an off-season where they can use cap space to their advantage with a free agent market that could be littlered with big names like Artemi Panarin, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Jeff Skinner. Moving the 26-year-old Hayes, whose agent has spoke with Gorton but no negotiations have taken place yet about an extension, would free up future room and bring back assets in return. Same for the 31-year-old Zuccarello. Draft picks brought back can either restock the prospect cupboard or used in future trades to get immediate help.

Both have expressed their desire to stay, but Hayes and Zuccarello understand the nature of the business.

“At the same time, everybody knows how I feel about wanting to stay. I’ve loved my five years here,” Hayes told the New York Post over the weekend. “I love the organization, the guys, the staff, the city, the fans. I really can’t see myself anywhere else. But it’s also kind of out of my hands.”

“You know what, I think everyone knows my opinion about everything. I love it here,” Zuccarello earlier this season about the trade talk. “This is my ninth season. This is where I grew up to become — hopefully — an adult. Maybe half [an adult]. But this is home for me, my second home.”

In Hayes’ case, when he settled with the team on a one-year deal and avoided arbitration last summer, it set up this exact scenario. Gorton was given a period of time to take a look at the Rangers’ youth down the middle — Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Brett Howden — and decide whether keeping the 26-year-old center fit his plans. A long-term extension is in the player’s plans, but the GM will have to weigh if locking him up for five years or beyond at somewhere between $5-6M a season is ideal, or if there’s another plan of attack to strengthed the position in the off-season.

Henrik Lundqvist is still playing at an elite level, and with two more years left on his contract after this season, this “retool” by Gorton shouldn’t continue into next season. Two down years and plenty of roster reshaping should have the Rangers back to playoff contenders for the 2019-20 season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Adam McQuaid’s broken leg is the latest injury to hit Bruins

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Another day, another Boston Bruins player exiting the lineup due to injury.

The team announced on Friday that defenseman Adam McQuaid will miss the next eight weeks recovering from a broken right fibula. The injury was suffered during Thursday night’s win over the Vancouver Canucks when he blocked two shots on the same shift in the final period.

“Adam has been doing that for years around here,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said afterward. “He’s one of the unsung heroes in that locker room. Doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, the tough parts of the game, blocking shots, sticking up for your teammates.”

The Bruins were happy to get Patrice Bergeron (four points) back in their lineup, but that was after Tuukka Rask was diagnosed with a concussion. Losing McQuaid to a broken leg and David Krejci to an upper-body injury was not ideal despite the two points. Cassidy said he expected Bergeron and Krejci to return to the lineup Saturday versus the Buffalo Sabres after sitting out Friday’s optional skate.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.